By Mark Walz
How near is God to us and to our lives? Does He sit far away upon His throne like a great king completely separate from Creation? Or is He much, much nearer? Our understanding to these questions have the potential to shape our lives in radically different ways.
In more modern times, it is common to see God as separate from His Creation — above it, so to speak. Because of this, we might view our relationship with God like an absent boss or distant father. We would not hear from them much unless something is going wrong. And then the resultant impression would be mostly negative. Every time we hear from him its because we are doing something wrong! Over the long term, what might we prefer? Most likely we would prefer less of God, for that would mean we are more in his graces.
But what if God were much closer than most people think? What if God is in and near to everything? People in other times and other cultures certainly thought so. Look at King David’s picture of the nearness of God in Psalm 29: “The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders…” And, “The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth and strips the forest bare, and in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’"
These words seem to give an impression of God being present and in the now. He is not just a Creator who once has set His creation in motion stands apart. He is present even at a young deer’s birth! And when you feel the thunder against your chest, God’s glory is in the thin space beyond. It is almost as if the thunder is a reminder that there is someone there, beyond what you can see or touch or smell, and yet very, very near.
I love this quote from Rod Dreher who challenges our modern notions of God being far away. He wrote, “the awe we feel in the presence of nature, beauty, or goodness — the feeling that there must be more than what we experience with our senses — is a reasonable intuition… it tells us that we are not imagining things: something — or Someone — is there.”
It sure seems like we have got it wrong when we imagine God coming around only when things are bad or when we are doing bad things. He, though God and transcendent over Creation, is here and close. He is very near to our lives and interactions. Dreher points out that Paul says as much, “Yet he is actually not far from us, for in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:27-28).
God is closer to us than we are to ourselves, Bishop Jones has said this many times. But do we believe it? Do we act like it? What would our lives be like if He was not just near when things were bad, but nearer still than we could imagine at all times? I hope to address this more this Sunday in worship… In Christ Mark